(HockeySTL) – Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock was noncommittal after Wednesday morning’s skate on whether captain David Backes would play Game 4 against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Backes suffered a head injury in Game 2 Saturday after receiving an illegal check from Brent Seabrook late in the game that got him a three-game suspension.
The forward did not play in Monday’s game, and did not skate around with the team Wednesday morning.
If Backes returns Wednesday night, the Blues will almost be at full health as they try to avoid letting Chicago even the series at two games. The center would return to the top line with Alexander Steen and T.J. Oshie, taking the faceoffs for that combination.
The Blues missed Backes in several areas on Monday, perhaps most noticeably on the faceoff dots. The team won just 27 of their 66 draws (41%) against Chicago on Monday, which is an area they have been relatively successful in all season.
Backes had a success rating of 51.7-percent on the dots in the regular-season and will be relied upon to have success over Chicago’s Jonathan Toews on Wednesday. Toews won 19 of the 24 (79%) faceoffs he took in Game 3.
To compensate for Backes’ absence, and the lack of success on the draw in Game 3, Hitchcock had to break up his go-to line of Jaden Schwartz, Vladimir Sobotka, and Vladimir Tarasenko late in the game. He would move Steve Ott to that line in order to start with the puck off the faceoff, as the team struggled heavily in the dwindling minutes of the game.
The Blues also missed Backes’ production and minutes in Monday’s game. The captain was the Blues’ third-highest point-getter in the regular-season, netting 27 goals and accumulating 57 points. He has been tasked all season with handling the opponents’ top lines.
If the Blues can defeat the Blackhawks Wednesday, they will return home on Friday for Game 5 with a chance of clinching the series against the defending champions.